After 39 years, North Tahoe Lions Club on verge of folding
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — After 39 years of service, the North Tahoe Lions Club could soon cease activities unless a rejuvenation in membership and interest among younger residents occurs.
The Incline Village club — once a thriving branch with more than 50 regular volunteers — now only has six active members, said current President Joe Shackford.
Those numbers are dropping, for the most part, due to the Incline community’s aging demographics and a national trend of membership decline among service organizations, Shackford said.
“Membership is getting older, we’ve had a number of older people move away from Incline, and a number of people have died, frankly,” added resident Gene Brockman, who’s served as Lions’ treasurer the past five years. “I also get the impression that the Baby Boomers, as they are retiring, and while they’re working … they aren’t nearly as doomed to public service through service clubs as a generation ago was.”
With Brockman, Shackford and others uninterested in keeping the club running, leadership will turn over to Cliff Cooper, governor of Lions District 46, which includes Nevada and some California clubs.
In the past few weeks, Cooper said he’s heard from a handful of people interested in joining the club.
While some clubs in District 46 have fewer than 10 members, that’s not ideal, he said. Further, considering about 65 percent of all clubs these days are made up of men, and “maybe only 20 percent are under the age of 50,” recruiting women and younger people is a challenge.
“There’s no denying every year we get older. Service clubs in general these days — Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc. — if we don’t recruit younger members, it’s hard to maintain memberships,” Cooper said.
According to the Lions Clubs International, a provision allows for a club to go dark for a six-month period, and for the district governor to submit a plan for resurrecting it.
“If that doesn’t happen after six months, then the club will officially disband,” Cooper said.
Considering the group’s dues are paid through the end of the year, if that worst-case scenario were to occur, it wouldn’t be until June 30, 2015 — which, ironically, is the eve of what would be its 40th annual Fourth of July pancake breakfast.
Since its founding in 1975, the North Tahoe Lions Club has hosted the community-wide breakfast, and has supported the North Tahoe Boys & Girls Club, Tahoe Safe Alliance, Kids & Horses Therapeutic Riding School, Red White and Tahoe Blue, and many other nonprofits.
The club has donated an average of $20,000 to $40,000 to nonprofits over the past several years. Once activities wrap Sept. 30, 16 organizations will receive grants of more than $21,000, Shackford said.
Despite that success, Brockman said membership has been declining the past 15 years, and it’s been “extremely difficult trying to bring younger folks into membership.”
“It just got to the point where none of the remaining members were willing to continue a leadership role,” Brockman said. “It seems to be at a point where it’s become necessary to face the facts that the club, under our current management, was not going to survive. As much as we believe in the principles of Lionism, and helping the community, without people to contribute time, effort and dollars, it was nonsense to continue.”
One of the Incline club’s first fundraisers was an annual crab feed, but when the price of crab rose too high, Lions began to sell See’s candy in 1991 for the holiday season.
Recently, it partnered with the Incline Village General Improvement District on the North Tahoe Lions Club Disc Golf Course, which will remain supported by IVGID.
Also, the Lions’ information sign that’s stood for years at the 7-Eleven at the corner of Village and Tahoe boulevards will remain “if someone can administer it.,” Shackford said.
The club is part of Lions Clubs International, which has 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members, making it “the world’s largest service club organization,” according to its website. Anyone interested in joining the North Tahoe club should email Cooper at email@example.com or call 775-233-0434.